By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In spite of the yearly recommendations, doctors say fewer than 50 percent of Americans get the annual flu shot, leading to more than nine million flu-related illnesses a year and 12,000 deaths.

Steven Alles, the Director of  Disease Control at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health got his flu shot and is urging everyone else to follow his lead.

“With influenza, it’s a disease that changes every year we have it every winter season and there are multiple strains that circulate every year,” said Alles.

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Health officials say this could be a bad flu season. Based on global tracking from Australia, their winter saw a significant influenza outbreak.

“They had a pretty bad flu year meaning there were just more cases of flu than they normally they see every year, about two times as many,” Alles said.

The flu not only brings misery, but it can be deadly, especially for the elderly, children and those with compromised immune systems.

“It’s important for those people to get vaccinated. A good vaccine causes an immune response so it primes your body to have a reaction to produce antibodies which are proteins that fight the virus when you do come into contact with it at a later date,” said Alles.

And no, contrary to popular legend, flu shots don’t give you the flu, but there can be a mild reaction like a slight fever or injection site soreness.

While doing a Facebook Live, CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl got the flu shot at the CBS3 Health Fair following the recommendation that everyone over the age of 6 months gets vaccinated.

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It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in. While February is usually peak flu season, it can start in November, which is why now is the time to get a shot.